Tuesday, April 11, 2017

'Kong: Skull Island' Is No Epic, but Still a Decent Monster Romp

Kong: Skull Island is the latest reboot of the King Kong franchise and the second installment in Legendary’s “MonsterVerse” shared cinematic universe (the first of which was 2014’s Godzilla reboot).  The movie follows an expedition – composed of tracker/adventurer ex-British SAS Captain James Conrad (Tom Hiddleston), U.S government agent Bill Randa (John Goodman), photojournalist Mason Weaver (Brie Larson), U.S. Army helicopter squadron leader Lieutenant Colonel Preston Packard (Samuel L. Jackson), and other scientists and soldiers – into an unexplored, fabled island in the Pacific called “Skull Island”, which they soon discover is the dominion of a gargantuan ape named “Kong” (probably the largest incarnation of the iconic film monster yet.  The same thing was done with Godzilla in Godzilla Resurgence.  I guess the trend is “bigger is better”).  As their undertaking unceremoniously becomes a struggle for survival, they meet World War II pilot Hank Marlow (John C. Reilly), who has been stranded in the island for nearly three decades, and encounter various strange, deadly creatures never before seen by men – chief of which are Kong’s mortal foes, the reptilian subterranean monsters called “Skullcrawlers.”
The part I enjoyed most about the 2005 King Kong movie was Skull Island.  I hoped then that the movie had spent more time in that mythical place and explored it more.  So the fact that Kong: Skull Island is exclusively set on it is a sort of fulfillment of that wish, and thus, is a big positive for this movie.  Indeed, all things Skull Island are what I like most about this movie.  I just wished it showed more variety of monsters (I counted only seven extraordinary kinds of creatures, including Kong and the Skullcrawlers).

Unfortunately, aside from the mythical appeal of the setting and creatures, there’s nothing else much to be loved about this movie.  The plot is predictable.  The script is dumb.  There’s a noticeable amount of moments in the narrative that are pretentious, needless, or don’t make any sense.  And despite having an impressive casting of beloved actors, the film’s characters are completely bland.
It’s still a decent monster romp, though.  The action scenes are fist-pumpingly gratifying, which is probably the most important thing about this kind of movies.  But other than that, it lacks any sense of real noteworthiness.  It just feels like an obligatory stepping stone to that “Godzilla vs. King Kong” event that Legendary is building towards.  Considering the potential of its grand premise, I wish it had been epic.

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